2015 Leaders and Legends Awards Presented

On July 30, 2015, the CHRO presented awards to six civil rights “Leaders and Legends” in a ceremony at the State Capitol. Those honored are Connecticut citizens and organizations who augment the efforts of the CHRO and make fairness and equality a priority in the work that they do.

This inaugural ceremony was dedicated to David Stowe, a true leader and legend in the fight for civil rights. Attorney Kim Jacobsen shared how Dave worked at Connecticut Legal Services for over thirty years, helped create the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, and was considered an expert in housing matters. Dave was involved with two seminal CHRO cases: CHRO v. Sullivan, affirming the proposition that landlords cannot refuse section 8, and CHRO v. Litchfield Housing, confirming a client’s right to participate in their complaint once filed in court.

The 2015 award recipients are Senator Eric Coleman, The Artists Collective, Inc., Attorney Karen DeMeola, Michelle Duprey, Darryl Burke, and Eleanor Caplan.

Assistant United States Attorney Ndidi Moses presented Senator Eric Coleman with the Alvin W. Penn Award for Excellence in Leadership. Sen. Coleman embodies the leadership qualities of Alvin Penn through his work advocating for, among other causes, felon’s voting rights, alternatives to incarceration, reentry initiatives and Gov. Malloy’s Second Chance Society. Alvin Penn was an African American state senator who fought tirelessly for the city, the urban poor, and for African Americans across the state.

Dollie McLean accepted the Katherine Hepburn Award for Using Media as a Platform for Social Change for her work as the Executive Director of The Artists Collective, Inc. The award was presented by Attorney Dan Schwartz. The Artists Collective is an organization dedicated to preserving the art and culture of the African Diaspora and provides educational programs and instruction in dance, theatre, music and visual arts. The award is named after Katharine Hepburn, an American actress from Old Saybrook, Connecticut, who is known for appearing in films and for breaking down traditional gender roles of women in popular culture

The Constance Baker Motley Award for Excellence in Business or Law was presented to Attorney Karen DeMeola, Assistant Dean of Students at UConn Law School, for her dedication in promoting fairness and equality in law and legal education. The award was presented by Constance Royster, the niece of Constance Baker Motley. Constance Baker Motley was the first female African American federal judge, whose career included being a civil rights activist, lawyer, judge, and state senator.

Michelle Duprey was presented the Maria Colon Sanchez Award for Community Activism by Gretchen Knauff. Ms. Duprey is a tireless advocate for those with disabilities, particularly in the City of New Haven, where she works as the city’s designated advocate for disabled persons. Maria Colon Sanchez was an activist and politician, who became the first Hispanic woman elected to the Connecticut General Assembly.

Shola Freeman presented the Edythe J. Gaines Award for Inclusive Education to Darryl Burke, a forty plus year educator, for his commitment to the education of the children of Hartford and his dedication to promoting equality, inclusion, and fairness in education. Edythe Gaines was the first African American and first woman to head the Hartford School System

Neva Vigezzi presented the Mario and Janet Vigezzi Award for Social Justice to Eleanor Caplan. Ms. Kaplan advocated for social justice and equality through her work as a legislative liaison for the CHRO and is a champion of civil rights. Regardless of her retirement, she has remained committed and has continued to stay involved with the civil rights movement. Mario Vigezzi worked for the CHRO for twenty-five years, was the chief of operations fighting for equality and for the rights of brass workers. Janet Vigezzi was employed as a stockbroker and in the urban planning field. She was a member and officer of the North End Community Club of Waterbury, the Waterbury NAACP, League of Women Voters, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Ellis Island Foundation.

The CHRO is proud to honor these six men and women for their courageous and outstanding work as Leaders and Legends in Connecticut’s fight for Civil Rights.